The holiday season is a time of reunion for many families with the relatives that they might not have seen for an entire year. Thanksgiving in particular hosts a great deal of family gatherings in the United States. While many parents would like their children to be affectionate and loving with their relatives during the fleeting holiday season, some children may feel as if they are being forced to be affectionate. It is not unusual to have a relative or two that you may feel uncomfortable around, so why should children be forced to do something they’re uncomfortable with.
To spread the word about all types of consent this Holiday season, GSCNC (Girl Scouts Council Nations Capital), released a statement encouraging parents to not push their children outside of their comfort zone when it comes to relatives. Although they may be family, to young children, some relatives might feel just like strangers. In their post, they encouraged the notion that hugs, kisses, or any other physical contact are not owed to anyone, regardless of the circumstances. One statement in particular captured this perfectly.
“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.” – GSCNC
Parents might not think of consent as a concern among family members and their children, even when it does not pertain to sexual contact. The truth of the matter is, consent is not just related to sex. However, by using the holiday season as a teaching moment to let your kids know that any contact with their body is and should be their choice, it helps set up the notion that consent is necessary without even introducing sex into the conversation. If children associate physical affection with debt, it may inhibit their ability to be genuinely affectionate in any situation.
Instead of forcing or harshly encouraging children to be affectionate, teach them to be appreciative and kind. If they want to express their gratitude with a hug to their relative who just gave them a new toy, they will. If they want to express it by saying thank you and playing with their toy, then they will. Not giving physical affection is not rude. It requires consent to be affection.
photo credit: Newshub